Suddenly, the Twins have sprinted past the .500 mark and are looking for more.
They are unfazed by deficits, protecting leads and are getting big hits up and down the roster.
But the real show at Target Field takes place after the wins that are coming now with increasing regularity.
Such was the case after the Twins carved out a 6-5 victory over Oakland on Thursday when they totaled five hits and righthander Ricky Nolasco lasted only five innings.
Afterward, the lights were turned down in the clubhouse as the players entered from the field. Two smoke machines were turned on, then came the laser beams. And then party music.
“The dance party,” second baseman Brian Dozier said.
Whoever has been selected by the team as the player of the game has to go to the middle of the room and dance. Eventually, he’s joined by others. The media is allowed into the clubhouse after the celebration is over, but leftover smoke is still wafting through the room when the doors open.
Eduardo Escobar has been center stage the past two games. On Wednesday, he drove in five runs. On Thursday, he misplayed a fly ball that cost the Twins a run, but his two-run single to right in the fifth was the game-winning hit.
“We all get a kick out of Escobar dancing,” Dozier said. “He can actually dance. He’s the one who does it the most. I don’t know if he’s the best, but he’s very entertaining.”
Who dances the most? Torii Hunter, who came up with the celebration idea. Hunter hopped on a table after Thursday’s game, showing off some moves.
The Twins began the day tied for the fifth-best winning percentage in the American League. After holding off Oakland, they improved to 16-13 — three games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2010 season. Repeat: Since the end of the 2010 season. So they have a reason to enjoy the success that has avoided them in recent years.
This is one time a smoke-filled room can be a good thing.
“It builds camaraderie,” Hunter said. “You can lose 62 games a year — that’s a lot — and you can still have a good season.”
Hunter’s belief: Laugh at your teammates. Laugh at yourself. Stay positive. Shake off losses. Win over the long haul.
“It’s awesome. It’s fun,” said reliever Blaine Boyer, who has thrown 11⅔ consecutive scoreless innings. “We tend to forget sometimes that we’re adults playing a kid’s game. This is supposed to be fun. And you come in here, and it’s dance party central. That’s how it should be. We all should be having fun.
“And it’s a tribute to Torii as well. He went ahead and made it that way.”
After blowing out Oakland 13-0 a day earlier the Twins had to overcome several things Thursday that could have led to a loss. Nolasco battled mechanics and rain and lasted just five innings, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk.
The Twins gave Nolasco a 3-2 lead in the second. Two runs scored when Brett Lawrie threw wildly to first on a potential double-play ball, then Eddie Rosario added a sacrifice fly.
Oakland used an RBI single by Billy Butler to tie the game, then Butler scored when Escobar misplayed Ike Davis’ fly ball.
Rosario, who homered on the first pitch of his career on Wednesday, tied the game with a run-scoring single in the fourth. Then Escobar atoned for his mistake in the fifth with a two-run single to right.
“Grinding out the game was challenging,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Ricky didn’t have his best stuff. Somehow he got through five innings.”
The Twins have won back-to-back four-game series, taking seven of eight games. They were 8-3 on the homestand, during which they averaged 6.6 runs a game and the bullpen posted a 2.35 ERA. Since starting out 1-6, they are 15-7.
Which means there have been plenty of opportunities to turn the clubhouse into a nightclub after games at Target Field.
“We know we have a good team,” third baseman Trevor Plouffe said. “I think having guys like Torii in here reminding us that we’re good [helps]. We’re going to have a rough patch again this year, and you have to remind yourself that we’re a good team and be confident and that’s how you get out of those ruts.”